When I was younger, thinner and more photogenic, I came home from a cellphone-free holiday in Scotland to find myself all over the newspapers being dubbed as “The Information Superhighwayman”. This was the start of the Harrods vs. Lawrie case which went on for a long time and due to my refusal to talk to the press, put me in a pretty bad light. It was the first domain-name case outside the US and so it was one that would potentially have far reaching implications. At the time it was only the second case in the world and the first was nothing to do with the people who actually registered the name, just people who bought it from them. I was the world’s first “domain name speculator” and paid a high price for it in the press and in the industry as well, which I guess has long since regretted not being more openly on my side. I have since explained the whole Harrods thing to anyone who wants to listen but most don’t and honestly, it’s in the past and I rather like the title “The Information Superhighwayman”. Oddly, since I was in charge of registering customer domains for British Telecom for a few years, I was far more often on the other side of the domain-name trademark legal-war on my customers’ behalf. One of the strangest things that happened to me in my prosecution-years was having a big domain-name trademark case I prosecuted whilst at BT used in the baa.com case as a precedent against me. That one amused me somewhat, I admit.
When it comes to it, I didn’t register any of the trademarked domains I had back then to sell them, I registered them so we could pitch sites at the companies involved and when we’d convinced them of the wonders of the Internet, we would already have the sitenames to build the site on. Way back then in the early 90’s all but one company said “We’ll never want to be on the Internet, we have no interest, sorry chaps”. A few years on when people did want to be on the Internet, my company lawyers acted badly in my interest and when they were approached started insisting on money changing hands. We did later make a claim against the lawyers for acting without instruction or something but again that’s all forgotten in the mists of time.
Yesterday I registered an Indian domain for a small project I am starting, and I had to search out a suitable one. I noticed that a hell of a lot of the ones I was interested in had already been registered and parked on Sedo (a site that sells domain names). When I registered the one I wanted finally, I was offered the chance to put the domain up for sale on the very site I had used to register the domain. This struck me as very weird and a very odd way for the industry to have gone after all the shit I got in the early days for doing what I did.
I have only ever sold two domain names. I wonder if that is surprising to most people? I sold one years ago because of the afformentioned lawyers (I think I made about $5,000 from it of which I got about $1000), and I sold the other because somebody offered me a lot of money for a generic domain name. I have had a lot stolen from me – In the old days it was a lot easier to fake transfer requests and a lot of people did. After the transfer was done it was nearly impossible to get them back without years in court and a lot of money. I have had a few stolen “at source” too. One of the largest and oldest registries (no names) had staff who were all too willing to simply steal a domain from the owner, and register it to somebody else for a suitable bribe. There was no paperwork in those days and the electronic trail would of course be deleted. This isn’t imagination, I believe a lot of this sort of thing came out into the open in the sex.com court case.
One of my favourite domain names was richersounds.com – Again we originally registered this because we wanted to pitch a site to Richer Sounds, a rather good audio equipment company in England. A few years on the domain was up for renewal (they were free when I started registering them, amazing hey!) and I noticed richersounds.com was about to expire. I like Richer Sounds – They used to give lollipops away in their stores and once in Leeds when they had run out and I jokingly wrote a letter to Julian Richer (the owner), telling him to send the store more lollipops. A week or so later, Julian sent me a whole box of lollies. You can’t beat service like that. When I noticed richersounds.com expiring, I contacted Julian and arranged the domain transfer and everything at no cost; just so that they wouldn’t lose it. I guess they will take my Superhighwayman Hat off me for things like that, won’t they.
As I seem to say a lot these days, it’s odd how the world is changing but whatever happens, the lawyers will get richer off the back of it all. I wonder… Ummm.
bash$ whois richerlawyers.com
No match for “RICHERLAWYERS.COM”.
There you go somebody, I am sure that will make you a few dollars somewhere.